“Wednesday Writer” – Jennie Hansen

Jennie Hansen

Everyone in the LDS publishing community knows who Jennie Hansen is. Besides having penned many of her own novels in several different genres, she reviews regularly for Meridian Magazine. And now she has a new novel out–WHERE THE RIVER ONCE FLOWED.

WheretheRiverOnceFlowed_COVER_COMP(Great cover!)

Here’s a brief synopsis:

New Mexico, 1879—The Sebastian Hacienda is a lucrative and coveted ranch deep in the fertile wilderness of New Mexico, a property held for generations by the powerful Sebastian family. After the death of his son and heir, proud and formidable Don Sebastian has only one hope for the preservation of his land: his beautiful young granddaughter, Iliana. Desperate, he makes a shocking deal—the property will be sold to Ross Adams, an American cowboy, on the condition that he marry the stunning young Iliana and bequeath the land to her sons. A bargain is struck, but not everyone is pleased with the outcome. Neighboring rancher Ben Purdy has his eye on pretty Iliana—and on ownership of the Sebastian Ranch. In his ruthlessness, Purdy is willing to go to terrible lengths to acquire them both, even if it means destroying everything in his path . . . Utah Territory, 1891—Travis Telford was born to be a cowboy. He left his family to chase the dream of someday owning his own ranch, but years of nomadic living as a ranch hand have proven taxing. After several seasons of horse trading with the American owner of the Sebastian Ranch, Travis finds his life dramatically altered by a routine stop at the property. He finds the ranch in chaos and the rancher’s beautiful widow Iliana in the midst of a turbulent land battle. His instinct to protect Iliana is undeniable, and as the danger mounts, only their reliance upon each other has the power to save them.

For those of you intrigued by the story, here’s the link to purchase Jennie’s latest in ebook form.

Now let’s get to know her a bit better.

ME:  As I understand it, you were first published at age seven in a farm magazine. You said that you’d read an article about a cat in that magazine, and that you were certain your cat was much smarter, so you wrote about her. Being a cat person, myself, my question is, why were you so certain your cat was smarter? (Also, I’d love to share a picture of you with your cat at that age.)

JENNIE:  I don’t remember anything about the cat in the article I read, but my cat, Streaker, could run really fast, jump from the treehouse to the next tree, catch mice and gophers, wiggle out of any doll clothes I put on her, sneak past KC the gander, and she found a hidden spot inside the barn to have her kittens where the coyotes couldn’t get them. (Okay, I’m duly impressed!)

My mother didn’t often get out her old box camera, and most of the few pictures she had were ruined in a flood when I was eight. I have only a couple of pictures of me at that age, but my cat isn’t in either one. One is of me in my blue satin Sunday dress…


…and the other is of my cousin, Colleen, and I riding my brother’s horse.

Jennie and Colleen(There’s Jennie in back)

ME:  Like you, I moved around a lot as I was growing up, so I can identify with your sentiment about your siblings being among your closest friends. Do you still get together frequently, and have any of them made it into your novels as characters? (I’d love a picture of the whole family when you were young.)

JENNIE:  My siblings and I are still close and we get together as often as possible, which isn’t as often as we’d like, but we live in three different states. Cancer took one brother and one sister not long ago. I’ve never put any of my siblings in any of my books. My characters are always entirely products of my imagination, but I suppose there are bits and pieces of real people in my head that creep into those imaginary characters’ makeup. (I wouldn’t be surprised.)

Smith Family with G.Shepard(Jennie in the front row, far left, with her family)

ME:  As you moved between Idaho and Montana, which state did you come to prefer and why? Or was there no real difference between them? And how does Utah now compare?

JENNIE:  I found a great deal to love about each state, and I associate Idaho with my early childhood and later teens, while Montana holds my memories of those “tween” years from eleven to thirteen. I found the most enduring friendships in Idaho, but Montana can’t be beat for fishing, hiking, and outdoor fun. I love living in Utah now with its mixture of indoor and outdoor opportunities. It’s where we raised our children and holds the best of my adult memories.

ME:  I can understand how an early bout of rheumatic fever gave you the time to really develop your love of reading, but who or what got you interested in politics at an early age?

JENNIE:  My dad had strong political views, which he shared with us kids. I also had a history and civics teacher in high school who encouraged us to learn political analysis, as did a college economics professor. My years as a newspaper reporter honed my interest in politics, as well, since it brought me in close contact with many political figures and, in a way, led me to run for the town council, work as a page for the legislature, and hold various party offices.

ME:  Of all your awards in journalism and writing, which means the most to you and why?

JENNIE:  That’s hard to answer. Offhand, I’d say the national award I received for editing from the National Federation of Press Women, yet awards for various individual articles I wrote mean a lot to me too. This award matters to me because it was my first big award and because journalism played such a strong part in my life.

I felt extremely honored to be one of the first recipients of LDStorymakers’ Lifetime Achievement Award (as part of the Whitney Awards). And the Silver Trumpet Award from my publisher holds a lot of personal meaning for me. I really can’t say one means more to me than another. They both touched me deeply because they’re a tangible symbol of something I worked so hard to achieve.

ME:  Please tell us how your diagnosis of cancer affected your writing. And how do you maintain the kind of inspiration needed to keep producing novels at the rate you do–24 now (particularly since you also regularly review books for Meridian)?

JENNIE:  I was diagnosed with cancer four weeks after my first novel was released which kept me from an active role in marketing it. I gained some insights from my experience fighting cancer that affected subsequent books, but I never really wrote about cancer other than a brief bit in JOURNEY HOME a few years later. I did help a couple of other writers who were writing about cancer with their research. 

I always thought I’d write more extensively about cancer or have a character fight cancer in one of my books, but having lost two siblings to it, struggled through four bouts of the nasty C with a couple of my children, and recently undergone a pancreatectomy to keep it from destroying me in the near future, I find I can’t do it–at least not yet. (Wow…I’m not surprised.)

As far as the inspiration to keep writing goes, I’m presently taking a break from novel writing. I don’t have another novel started yet; I’m simply concentrating on getting well and focusing on my Meridian reviews. However, Covenant is putting out a Mothers’ Day book this spring that will have a short story by me concerning my two miracle granddaughters which I actually wrote while at the rehab center. I’ll always write–I have ink in my veins–but it might be awhile before I write another novel.

ME:  What gave you the idea for your latest novel, WHERE THE RIVER ONCE FLOWED, and what are you working on next?

JENNIE:  WHERE THE RIVER ONCE FLOWED has a convoluted history. I was in the middle of a six book historical series (The Bracelet series) when Covenant, my publisher, was purchased by the Church and fell under the same umbrella as Deseret Book. The new management decided my series and another series by another well-known author should switch from hardbound to soft cover and be only four books instead of six.

High Country

I already had Diamond completely written and was well into Sapphire. I hurriedly changed both books to leave out the jewels. Sapphire became HIGH COUNTRY with a different ending than originally planned. My publisher decided Diamond was much too long, and I wrote two other books, SHUDDER and IF I SHOULD DIE, while I figured out how to break up Diamond. As you’ve probably guessed, those two books became THE HEIRS OF SOUTHBRIDGE and WHERE THE RIVER ONCE FLOWED.

The Heirs of Southbridge

As for my next book? I don’t know; I’m not ready yet to undertake a task as large as writing a book. (I think you deserve a rest, too.)

ME:  As the first Whitney Awards Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, I think you’re in an excellent position to measure the growth of this particular awards program. How has it been successful, and what ways do you imagine it might expand in the future?

JENNIE:  It has brought a lot of attention to LDS fiction and educated readers to the fact that LDS fiction is not one-size-fits-all but represents every genre. In the future, I’d like to see these awards move away from peer awards and better represent the views of readers, but I’ve no idea how that might be accomplished. 

I support the concept of awarding and acknowledging quality writing in the LDS market and hope to see the  program grow. I’m not fond of the Best Book of the year part of the awards since I don’t think it is possible to  compare apples and oranges and determine a speculative book is somehow better than a Mystery/Suspense. It is my hope that, in the future, these awards will highlight better and better professionalism in LDS novels and perhaps even include nonfiction and novellas categories.

(I’d even suggest short story anthologies, since that seems to be a growing segment.)

ME:  And how about the state of LDS fiction? You probably read more of it than any of us. Are LDS writers getting better? Does it help that some are getting national exposure, or are there inherent dangers in going national?

JENNIE:  LDS fiction covers a wide quality range. We still have a lot of cheesy, poorly written novels. We also have many novels that can hold their own in any measure of professionalism. I see supposedly LDS novels that exhibit no adherence to Church standards or doctrinal accuracy and others that are so preachy I wonder why they consider their sermons to be novels. There are those that bend over backward to make sure there are no references to the Church and others that read like missionary tracts. 

I don’t know whether LDS writers are getting better or not. Some are; some aren’t. Editing is becoming more sloppy and I’m not sure if that is because of the large number of amateur editors offering their services (note I said amateur, not freelance. Some of the freelance editors are very good.), colleges aren’t producing as many qualified editors, the economy has made hiring and maintaining good editors more difficult, our general reliance on electronics instead of real people, or the fact that some small publishers and self-publishing for e-readers do no editing at all. There are plenty of well-written, well-edited books by LDS authors, but sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which until you’ve spent your money.

I’m pleased to see LDS writers succeeding in the general market, but most are really no better writers than those who are sticking to the LDS market. Most of that success seems to be in the teen market and is heavy on the supernatural, sensationalism, dystopia, science fiction, or some type of fantasy. Though those genres are all represented to some extent in the LDS market, there isn’t as much demand for them. Those writers are writing what they enjoy and the general market is where the demand for their type of writing is.  Equally good writers are staying within the LDS market to write what they enjoy and know.  I don’t think LDS writers succeeding in the general market is good or bad, and I believe it is a fallacy to think general is somehow better. I think it’s great that LDS writers are succeeding and making a difference no matter where they find their audience.

(Very well put.)

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space in the voice of one of your favorite protagonists (your choice, but tell us who and from which novel, okay?). (Also, please provide a picture of said space.)

JENNIE:  This isn’t going to work for me. Once I finish a book and it is published, I really can’t get back in a character’s head. Almost half of my books are historical and my protagonists in those books would have no idea what my phones, printer, computers, cameras, Kindle, paper cutter, etc. are.

Kallene in IF I SHOULD DIE would probably wonder why I don’t upgrade my laptop and do more cleanup on my desk computer. She’d probably wonder, too, why I have a printer with more features than I need and is more suitable for a business office than a home office.

The mother-in-law, Barbara, in THE RIVER PATH, would likely tell me I need to dust more often, shred instead of stack papers I don’t need, and clean out my files better.

Macady from MACADY wouldn’t care one way or another what my office looks like, but would be more interested in meeting my family and checking to see if I have a horse or two.

(I think that gives us a pretty good idea of your space.)

My office 001(And here are a couple of views)

My office 002 (The business model printer must be hiding in the corner. :D)

If you’d like to get to know Jennie even better, be sure and check out her blog.

By the way, Monique Bucheger won the copy of Craig Everett’s Toby Gold and the Secret Treasure in last week’s Rafflecopter giveaway.

Come back next Wednesday when I’ll be interviewing Maria Hoagland about her new book, Family Size, and how she has developed as a writer.

Maria Hoagland

Originally posted 2013-02-20 06:00:38.

“Wednesday Writer” – J. Scott Savage

Jeff Savage, aka J. Scott Savage (he had to adjust his pen name because there was already an author with his same name), has always reminded me of Steven King. Without glasses in this picture.

J. Scott Savage

Sure, there’s kind of a physical resemblance, but it’s more than that. I think it’s his work ethic. He’s a writer through and through, and his writer’s brain never really clicks off. Why just last week, he had a flash of inspiration for a new YA novel and he got right to work on it. This, even though he’s already working to finish the FARWORLD fantasy series for Shadow Mountain Press, diving deeper into his new CASE FILE 13 middle grade series for HarperCollins, AND getting set for his first adult horror novel to release in January.

Yes, this is a mind that’s always churning. And the best part is . . . he’s so willing and ready to share that mind and his time with his fellow writers (even if it’s only to get them into a midnight showing of “The Avengers” on the eve of a writers conference). :D

Seriously, no one can say Jeff’s opinion on anything to do with writing or getting published doesn’t matter. But was he always that way? Let’s find out!

ME:  When you were a kid, were you as gross as some of these boys you write about? I mean, little fingers falling off into a bowl of mashed potatoes? DISGUSTING! Seriously, what was the grossest thing you ever did?

JEFF:  Is there any little kid that isn’t disgusting? I definitely was. We did things that made my mom crazy. Like the time I was starting first grade and my parents took us to see the school. They turned around and my little brother and I had picked up cigarette butts off the ground and were walking around with them between our lips. (Okay, move over James Dean…here’s a true rebel without a cause.)

Grandma and Grandpa's 50th 430(Quick, while they’re not looking, pick up the cigarette butts!)

Or the time we found a dead parakeet and decided to give it a burial. (Nice, right?) (So far…)

Then we thought how cool it would be to see what the bird looked like after being buried for a few days. So we tied a string around its neck before burying it. We pulled the string after a week and the noose came up with no bird attached. (Not quite so nice.)

(True, but a whole lot better than I thought you were going for . . . Still, I can see where the whole zombie middle grade series had its start.)

ME:  So in CASE FILE 13: ZOMBIE KID, why did you make Angelo wear glasses if Nick was most like you? Do you have issues with glasses or something? I mean, come on . . . Clark Kent, Bruce Banner, some seriously cool people (including me) wear glasses!

JEFF:  Okay, so funny you should ask. I not only wore the thick, black nerd glasses that for some reason I can’t fathom are cool now, I got an eye patch to go with them. It wasn’t even the cool pirate eye patch either. Part of the reason I gave Angelo glasses was because he is the brains of the group. He always has his head in a book. And as a person who wears glasses, aren’t we just a little bit smarter than everyone else? :D (Okay, I won’t argue with that.)

jeff 3Too cool for puppies

jeff 1Cool and slightly toothless

ME:  Which of all your books was your mom most proud of and why? Also, which parent had the greatest influence on your writing?


JEFF:  My mom loved everything I wrote. After she passed away, I discovered poems and stories I couldn’t even remember writing. In fact, I was reading chapters from my latest WIP to her the day before she died. One of the hardest things for me about having her gone is not being able to share my stores with her. She was a great editor and my biggest cheerleader. (And I’m sure she still is.)

I think I’m a pretty even mix between my mom and dad when it comes to writing. Both of them loved to laugh, and nothing makes me happier than making someone laugh. My mom was very creative, and my dad was very adventurous, which led to some pretty funny stories, like the time he bought her a live monkey as a present and it turned out to be completely wild. (My husband LOVES monkeys, but I’m not as adventurous as your dad.)

ME:  Of all the parts of the writing process–idea germination, outlining (if you do that sort of thing), research, drafting, revision, and editing–which is your favorite and why?

JEFF:  I typically brainstorm enough to know the beginning and ending of my stories. Of course the ending might be as simple as they end up in the realm of the Zombie King and have to destroy him. Then I leap straight into writing. As I move through the story, I begin researching things that flesh out where the story goes. For example, when I learned about voodoo charms called gris-gris, I wove those into the story of the zombie amulet. When I researched zombies, I discovered bokors. My two favorite times are the very beginning when the story is fresh and somewhat unknown, and the end where it’s all about creating the exciting climax and you can’t type fast enough. (Yes! Now excuse me for a second while I look up a couple of new words.)

ME:  How many different projects are currently in process, what are they, and how on earth do you keep so many going concurrently? I thought women were the only ones who could multi-task. Give it up . . . are you a woman? (I must have a picture of you trying to display ALL your books . . . hope your hands are big enough. Of course, that would prove you’re not a woman.)

JEFF:  Well, I am pretty fond of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, so . . .

I think I was born to multitask. Right at this moment, I am answering these questions, checking in with my FARWORLD publisher, hiring an artist to do some website work, and scheduling lunch with my daughter. (“Father of the year” material, too!) That’s just the way my mind works.

Farworld_Air Keep Bk3

Writing is the same way for me. I am finishing book three in the Harper series, writing different POV chapters in the fourth FARWORLD book, and brainstorming YA ideas with my agent. When my wife asks me what I am thinking about, it can take twenty minutes to tell her everything. She’s learned not to ask. :D 

(Hmm . . . no picture. I guess we’ll have to take his wife’s word for it.)

ME:  What was the best “fishing” story you told back when you were fourteen (and had the brain of someone whose hero would be called Captain Weenie)? I don’t believe you can’t remember a single one. If you can’t, make up one now . . . please.

JEFF:  People ask me all the time when I knew I wanted to be an author. And the truth is, not until I was probably in my thirties. But looking back, I realize I was always telling stories. My cousins and I loved fishing. So when the fish weren’t biting, I made up stories. Captain Weenie was the hero and he was always trying to catch his arch rival, The Little Purple Man. Again, being a boy, there was always a river full of piranhas or alligators, a waterfall that dropped into spinning razor blades, and a great deal of potty humor.

jeff 2Captain Weenie about to cross a river full of alligators AND piranha!

ME:  What was the name of your underground paper that you published in high school and what was the most scandalous story you attempted to print? Did you ever get in trouble for it?

JEFF:  It was called Asylum. We never really got in trouble. Most of our stories were satire on local school events. You know, like significant testing has proven that the new chain link fences around the school will not withstand a nuclear attack, Pervert club has most student signups, that kind of thing. We actually were interviewed by the school newspaper in a K-Mart cafeteria. Good times!

ME:  On a more serious note, please describe your writing space in the voice of one of your favorite characters (your choice). Also, please send a picture that I can post.

JEFF:  Well, since Nick, Angelo, and Carter were there most recently, I’ll let them tell you.

“Dude, he’s got like a gazillion books in here,” Carter said, picking up a box of Cheez-Its and shaking the package to see if there were any left.

Nick examined the room. What little of the walls which were visible behind the many bookcases was painted a deep sky blue. Dragons, swords, and a variety of antique cameras covered most of the open space, and a map was tacked to a large bulletin board. He stood on his tiptoes to peek inside a miniature red restaurant called the Burger Barn. “I think this is from his first Farworld book.”

office 1

Angelo was busy flipping through the nonfiction books which ranged from an encyclopedia of Demons, to a book about body snatchers, to a thick treatise on Haitian voodoo. “I admire his reading material. But I don’t think I’d want to be a guest in his house over the holidays.”

office 2

“Are you kidding?” Carter asked, plopping into a plush leather recliner that looked like it got a lot of use. He dumped a dozen crackers into his mouth and popped open a cold diet Coke.  “I feel right at home.” 

(And so do we. Thanks!)

ME:  What are some of the biggest differences between working with a big publisher like HarperCollins and a smaller LDS publisher like Covenant or Shadow Mountain, and what was the most embarrassing thing you did that revealed one of those differences to you?

JEFF:  Mostly it’s about resources and time allocation. A smaller publisher may have a single editor working on fifty projects per quarter. While a big six editor might work on twenty to twenty-five per year. You just can’t put as much time into a book that might sell 3,000 copies as one that sells 30,000.

Another issue is contracts. Big six publishers working with experienced agents aren’t generally going to throw anything too egregious in their contracts. Smaller publishers are a lot more afraid of losing an author, so they often have more clauses you have to watch out for.

Then there’s marketing. Brandon Mull said it best: “A small publisher can do nothing for you, and a big publisher can do nothing for you. A small publisher can do a lot for you, and a big publisher can do a lot. The difference is that when a big publisher decides to do a lot, there’s more they can do.”

Covenant is my smallest, Harper is the biggest, and Shadow Mountain is in between. All of them have done things I loved, and all of them have done things I didn’t love as much. But all my editors have been amazing.

(Spoken like a true diplomat. And notice he didn’t own up to anything embarrassing? President Obama, I present your next Secretary of State!)

ME:  Finally, where do you see Publishing as an industry five years from now? Any changes and, if so, what?

JEFF:  No question there will be changes. People think e-books are the biggest change to hit publishing. But paperbacks were at least as big of a shakeup at the time. I believe some of the biggest changes are going to come in the way we find and access our books. More tools to let you enter the books you like and get suggestions on what you might like. More tools to let you share your thoughts with friends. That kind of thing. And technology will give you more options with how and where you read. (I’m visualizing a built-in iPad in the bathroom wall, 2-3 times the regular size. Now he’s even got me doing potty humor!)

Where I differ from some people is that I don’t expect publishers to go away. They are more adaptable than many people think. And a good publisher does so much more than just designing a cover and doing edits. With my CASE FILE 13 series, we went through probably a dozen series titles, looking for one that fit what we felt set the stories apart. The artwork, from the cover to the chapter pictures (which change as the book progresses), to the custom chapter fonts, to the little zombie horde on the bottom of the pages. My editor and I really worked on every aspect of the story from the narrator intro, to the future characters, to the POV for this and future books.

Case File 13 cover

The basic story is the same. But the level of professionalism increased unbelievably. I would be devastated if that all went away. Of course, not all publishers provide these kinds of services, and many people do create great stories without a publisher. But I don’t see publishers disappearing.

(Nor do I.)

If you want to learn more about Jeff and his work, check out his blog. He also has links there to purchase sites for his books.

And what about you? Where do you see Publishing in five years?

I’m taking the day after Christmas off, but don’t miss my next interview with Daron Fraley on Wednesday, January 2nd!

 Daron Fraley author


Originally posted 2012-12-19 06:00:10.